Ex-Commissioner says he and Prime Minister talked about new job before axe fell!
As police commissioner Cuthbert Phillips was particularly shy of the press and cameras. Imagine the surprise on Wednesday when his attorney Kenneth Monplaisir announced his press conference. It began with the lawyer announcing that his client —“without any acrimony whatsoever”—wanted only to demonstrate his respect for the public’s right to know. “Someone told me this was the grouse season,” the attorney chuckled, “but we’re not interested in shooting anyone down.”
When Phillips finally addressed the press gathering, he announced he would be reading from the Greaves Report, about which much had been heard but was never accessible by the media. The government would announce following the press meeting that the document was classified and ought not to have been in the hands of the recently fired police commissioner.
By all Phillips said, it seemed he blamed home affairs permanent secretary Victor Girard for his predicament, not the man who had announced his dismissal on national TV several days before his press conference: the prime minister and home affairs minister John Compton. Phillips claimed he found it especially difficult to do his job as police commissioner thanks to Girard’s “interference.”
It was during the question and answer period that the sparks started flying. When a reporter asked Phillips to confirm he and his deputy Andrew Frederick had been engaged in a factional dispute, he said: “Some of the powers that be, wanting operational control of the force, which the commissioner guarded, sought to consult with my subordinates . . . giving my surbordinates the kind of power that allowed them to believe the commissioner was no longer the commissioner. As a matter of fact the permanent secretary in home affairs could have worn the commissioner’s cap. This was where the whole breakdown of the force started. If anyone wants to say there was a factional war, then yes, there could only have been one if there were persons in authority supporting it.”
Additionally: “In the police force you had two brothers and a cousin . . . But I cannot say there was an open war. I’m not saying there wasn’t a factional dispute, only that I had no evidence. Witnesses were not forthcoming.” He repeated his earlier condemnation of the home affairs permanent secretary. “An advisory board was appointed,” Phillips recalled. “Its purpose was to advise the commissioner as to whom to recruit, promote or discipline. Greaves asked for the abolition of that board on the ground it would erode the powers of commissioner. This board has not been disbanded.” He said he was surprised by the prime minister’s dismissal speech on TV: “My wife and children almost collapsed. I received my letter from the Public Service Commission about 7.30 on the night in question, after my sister called from Toronto to ask about my position. Toronto knew before me that I had been compulsorily retired.” He said he’d had a meeting with the prime minister several months earlier and had formed the impression the prime minister had concluded “there were persons bent on destroying the commissioner who didn’t care if they also destroyed the force in the process.” The prime minister had told him: “Mr. Phillips, I’ve had enough. I will appoint a commission of inquiry,” and showed him the terms of reference of the Karl Hudson-Phillips inquiry.
Phillips revealed he had made a big mistake in not making public problems he had brought before the attorney general and the PSC. He assured the gathering that “I was not fired.” The reporter persisted. “Before you received the PSC’s letter, when the only hint of disaster came via the prime minister’s televised address, did you think you had been fired?”
“No!” said the former commissioner. “Why did your wife collapse?” “I did not ask her,” said Phillips, visibly agitated. He added that before the recalled prime minister’s address announcing his removal, the prime minister had promised him a new position with the regional Security Service. Alas, that offer did not materialize. It turned out that “the RSS had no vacancies!”
Editor’s Note: The above appeared in the 22 October 1988 issue of the STAR. If only coincidentally, the episode brings to mind IMPACS and police commissioner Vernon Francois, rumored to have accepted the job of chief security officer at SLASPA!